He studied at Annasahb Vartak College in Vasai, Maharashtra. He graduated in commerce, but failed to find a job. He was not considered for a steward’s position at the Taj Mahal hotel, because his English wasn’t good enough. His father suggested films. Around this time, Govinda saw the film Saturday Night Fever and dance became his obsession. He practiced for hours and circulated a promo of himself on a VHS cassette. Soon a fertilizer commercial came his way, followed by an Allwyn ad, finally his very first leading role in Tan-Badan, which was to be directed by his uncle Anand. He started shooting for his next film Love 86 in June 1985. By mid-July, he had signed 40 others.
His first released film was Ilzaam (1986), a box office success and the fifth biggest hit of 1986. The film established him as a dancing star. He acted in a string of movies after that with mixed success. Most of the films he appeared in during the 1980s were in the action, romance or family drama genres. He was often paired opposite actress Neelam and together they appeared in several hit films such as Love 86 (1986), Khudgarz (1987) and his brother Kirti Kumar’s directorial, Hatya (1988). He had success with family drama films such as Dariya Dil (1988), Jeete Hain Shaan Se (1988) and Hum (1991) as well as action films such as Marte Dam Tak (1987) and Jung Baaz (1989). He worked with David Dhawan for the first time in the 1989 action film Taaqatwar. He also worked with Rajini Kanth and Sridevi in a hit film that year titled, Ghair Khanooni.
Govinda appeared in several successful films in the 1990s. In 1992, he was seen in the critically acclaimed film, Zulm Ki Hukumat, an Indian remake of The Godfather where his performance was appreciated. He then formed a successful collaboration with David Dhawan and went onto act in 17 movies directed by him most of which were comedy films. The most successful films made by their collaboration include, Shola Aur Shabnam (1992), Aankhen (1993), Raja Babu (1994), Coolie No. 1 (1995), Saajan Chale Sasural (1996), Hero No. 1 (1997), Deewana Mastana (1997), Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (1998), Haseena Maan Jaayegi (1999), Anari No.1 (1999) and Jodi No. 1 (2001). Dhawan and other directors frequently cast him opposite actresses such as Divya Bharati, Karishma Kapoor, Juhi Chawla, Manisha Koirala, and Raveena Tandon during the 1990s.
His box office graph suffered a setback in the early 2000s following a series of commercially unsuccessful films. He played the role of a villain for the first time in his career in Shikari (2000). Although the movie was not a commercial success, Govinda’s convincing portrayal of a sociopath murderer was critically acclaimed.He turned down roles in Taal, Gadar: Ek Prem Katha and Devdas which went on to become successful films. His acting career was further affected when he contested and won the seat for Member of Parliament from Mumbai North in the 2004 parliamentary elections. He did not have any new film releases in 2004 and 2005 although some of his delayed films such as Khullam Khulla Pyaar Karen (2005) and his home production Ssukh (2005) were released and turned out to be box office disasters.
Govinda made a comeback to films in late 2006 with the comedy film, Bhagam Bhag, alongside Akshay Kumar which became a hit. His first release of 2007 was the huge multi-starrer Salaam-e-Ishq: A Tribute To Love. Although a box office disappointment, Govinda was praised for his performance.
His second release of 2007 was the David Dhawan directed comedy, Partner, which co-starred Salman Khan. The film grossed Rs. 300 Million in India on its opening week, the second highest domestic opening week gross for an Indian film until then. In 2008, he appeared in the film, Money Hai Toh Honey Hai. The same year, Salman Khan invited David Dhawan and Govinda on his show Dus Ka Dum to celebrate the success of their film Partner. In 2009, he had a successful release titled Life Partner. Govinda got back to the successful trio of David Dhawan, Vashu Bhagnani and himself with the film, Do Knot Disturb, which flopped at the box office.
In 2010, Govinda was seen in Mani Ratnam’s bilingual project, Raavan, along with Vikram, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai. Govinda played a forest officer who takes Vikram’s character through the forests in search of a wanted criminal. While it was earlier speculated that his character was a contemporary version of Hanuman, Govinda refuted the claim. Despite having a small role in the film, Govinda was appreciated for his performance